Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Early 1860s Black Evening Gown

This was my favorite outfit for Costume College this year, and I felt like it deserved a blog post! I'm also hoping to get back into blogging more regularly. I've got some exciting projects planned for the rest of the year and I want to share them with you!

So this gown I actually made two years ago, but the bertha was never quite what I wanted and the bodice ended up being a smidge too small. I bought another two yards of the fabrics--silk/cotton blend satin from Robert Kauffman--to make a new bodice and bertha. I also became the recipient of dozens and dozens of yards of vintage chantilly lace about a week before Costume College, and it was perfect for the bertha and headdress. I'm contemplating continuing the trim on the skirt all the way around as well. This dress is already pretty luxurious, so why not go all out?

I knew I wanted a black evening gown, but I had to contend with some "rules" surrounding black for young women. Namely that it just wasn't done because it was considered unbecoming for young women who should be in white and light colors, and that it wouldn't have looked well with the lighting of the time. But the large quantity of black formal gowns in portraits, fashion plates, and extant garments on women about my age encouraged me to make the gown anyway. And I'm probably not a "young lady" by 1860s standards anymore, as I'm married and pushing 30. ;-) So if I was in my late teens or early 20s, I probably would stick with a frothy tulle confection in light colors (but I already made that dress). I'm also not considering this a "ball gown" meant for dancing. It's an evening gown for formal evening occasions.

So here's some of my inspiration images. There is also a description of a black evening dress from a fashion magazine. My Pinterest board has all of the images I've collected, from the 1840s-60s to give a good range and show that they aren't as uncommon as one might think.
"Princess Louise (1848-1939)", Albert Graefle, 1864; Royal Collection Trust 400765

1861 Marii Sawiczewskiej by Leopold Löffler 

Contrast-weave box-pleated pleats  CIVIL WAR ERA BALL GOWN BODICE W RUFFLE PLEAT TRIMS
Bodice from eBay

Peterson's 1861
and the description: 

So with that, I present my gown! I'm so happy with how it fits and looks. The only thing I want to change it to make the bows on the skirt out of velvet. But that's it! And I'll be changing it up slightly for a fancy dress party in January, so look for this gown again in the future.


kjml said...

Absolutely gorgeous! And,yes, I'm afraid pushing 30 was quite mature at the time. But luckily, that gives one much more freedom!! Love this!

Unknown said...

Great job!

Unknown said...


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